bacon wrapped pork loin, christmas eve, christmas food, holiday gluttony, holidays, lithanian kucios, lithuanian foods, lithuanian traditions, mashed potato casserole

Eatmas 2011

There is a serious holiday hangover happening in our house right now. For nearly 36 hours straight, we were absolute holiday gluttons. We feasted, opened presents and watched ‘A Christmas Story’ at least 1.5 times. It was a wonderful past few days with The Missus, but we probably could have done without a helping of thirds of the Vinegretas. I couldn’t close the refrigerator last night because of how much food we had just for the two of us. Maybe it’s because our families are so far away that we feel the need to overcompensate with an ungodly amount of bacon and puff pastry. But, whatever the reason, we had a fantastic holiday and have a lovely shiney coat because of all of the fat we consumed.

The feasting started Saturday with another non-traditional, traditional Kūčios. This year we violated every rule about dairy and meat, though we started with something a little more traditional:

Smoked mackerel with pickled beets and horseradish sour cream. We served this with Lithuanian rye bread and the mackerel came from Duck Trap in Maine. For dinner we had traditional Lithuanian dumplings (Kuldūnai), bacon buns (Lasineciai) and Vinegretas.


Kuldūnai

Filling
1 lb ground lamb (not too lean) or ½ lb ground beef and ½ lb ground pork (for fattier
taste)
1 med onion chopped
Fresh ground pepper and salt one pinch each

Dough
1 egg
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 pinch salt

Mix filling ingredients together and set aside. Mix together dough mixture and roll out
onto floured surface. Cut out 2-3 inch circles of dough and fill with a spoonful of meat
filling. Fold it in half and press edges down with a fork. Add kuldūnai to boiling water
and cook for 10 minutes or until they all float. Serve with Sour Cream Butter sauce.

Sour Cream Butter sauce
In a pan melt equal parts butter and sour cream until sour cream has pretty much melted.
Pour over kuldūnai.

We cheated and used won ton skins for the dumpling wrappers and it didn’t quite work out the best for us. While The Missus made a fantastic meat mixture, the skins just became soggy and noodley, which made for a very unpleasant texture. We vowed to make the dough from scratch next year.

The bacon buns were simply made with coarsely chopped bacon(I believe she used 3/4 of a pound), crisped in a pan.
Remove the bacon, drain some of the fat and saute in about 1 cp of onions until soft. Season with salt and pepper and mix in bacon and let cool to room temperature.
Defrost your puff pastry according to directions, then remove to a floured surface and cut off squares for the buns.
Roll out to desired size and place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle.
Fold over top and seal to bottom, crimping edges to ensure they don’t bust open.
Brush with egg wash and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.


Now, it’s not easy to top the Lithuanians when it comes to pork and potatoes, but I think I managed to do it this year with a bacon and garlic encrusted pork roast.

Both the bacon and the roast came from a friend of The Missus who gave them to us for tossing him a few dollars worth of pink salt over the summer. I’d say we more than came out on top in that trade.

The roast was succulent and moist, with a bit of smokiness from the bacon ring.

But, there was more than just pork. There was mashed potato casserole, too! And something green!

Mashed Potato Casserole with Sour Cream and Chives

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, and more for the pan

6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons finely chopped chives

2/3 cup bread crumbs

2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

1. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a large pot, bring the potatoes, 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

3. Mash potatoes with 10 tablespoons butter, sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mash in the chives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spread potatoes into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.

4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix together until it forms coarse crumbs. Crumbs can be refrigerated for three days.

5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the potato casserole and bake until golden and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes.

I cut the recipe in half and added a cup of shredded Cave Aged Gruyere to the mashed potatoes before I set them in the refrigerator. This lent a nice salt and nuttiness that balanced out the 3/4 of a cup of sour cream. I’d say that this was easily the “fat kid” winner at the table this year. It was ridiculously rich(nearly a stick of butter in the potatoes, along with a container of sour cream and cheese) and I kept wanting more of it even when I was past rational fullness.

The greens were a Mario Batali recipe for broccoli rabe that I’ve made a few times. It’s extremely quick and simple and that was exactly what I needed after spending most of the day in the kitchen.

Broccoli Rabe, Pugliese

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 bunches broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup small pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
  1. In a large, deep saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the broccoli rabe, then add it to the saucepan with the water still clinging to it. Cover the pan tightly and cook until the broccoli rabe is tender and just a few spoonfuls of water remain, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and top with the olives

And, to top it all off, we had cheesecake. Both nights.

I think I’ll have salad the rest of the week.

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baking, baking while baked, holiday cookies, holidays, momofuku, momofuku milk bar recipes, sugar highs

Mother F**king Holiday Cookies

I’m in the thick of it now–holiday madness at work. On my days off this week I’ve baked approximately 15 dozen cookies to give to friends and coworkers. I’m burnt out and reeling from a pretty fucking big sugar crash. So, without breaking out the hyperbole… I’ll just give you some holiday cookie recipes.


(from the bottom, up)

Momofuku Marshmallow, Cornflake and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (adding peppermint candy and chocolate chips to the mix)
Peanut Butter and Bacon Cookies

Pecan Caramel Cookies

Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies



Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies
(I used left over Cornflake Crunch from the Marshmallow cookie, cocoa nibs, pretzels, dark chocolate chips and marshmallows)

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cheese pairings, holiday cheese plates, holiday self medicating, holidays, obscure holiday cocktails

Obscure Holiday Cocktails III

It’s that magical time again, folks… Holiday inspired drinking time. This year marked our 3rd incarnation of Obscure Holiday Cocktails, hosted by the lovely Dawn and, the equally as lovely, Adam. Seriously, he’s a beautiful man.

They definitely pushed the envelope this year and challenged my cheese pairing abilities more than previous years. I mean, really, how often have I been asked to pair something with Metaxa? Just about never. Port AND Sherry, you say? Together? What crazy, mixed up world is this? Who thought of these things? Why, my lovely friends did. I may have cursed them more than once as I fretted over pairings.

But, enough of my blabbering, let’s get onto the booze.

The Good


Christmas Bellringer

Gin

Cointreau

Frangelico

Freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange twist

We started the evening on a light and lovely note. The cheese, which I forgot to take a photo of, was the Spanish goats milk cheese, Capricho de Cabra, which was paired with Tupelo honey from The Savannah Bee Company. The drink and cheese paired nicely together with the citrus in the drink meshing wonderfully with the lemony and acidic notes of the cheese.

Greek Airmail

Metaxa

Lime juice

Honey

Q tonic

Bitters

Mint

This was actually my most enjoyed drink of the night, though I was a bit worried when I took my first whiff of Metaxa. But, when Professor A. handed me the drink, and I took my first sip, I was absolutely smitten with it. There was absolutely so much going on in the drink, at least from the list of ingredients, but everything in the glass seemed to play very nicely with each other. The loveliest touch was the mint leaf floating at the top. The cheese paired with this one, which came at the recommendation of Dawn and Professor A. was Keen’s Cheddar. The honey in the drink toned down a bit of the bite and salt of the cheese, while the salt in the cheese drew out a bit more of the honey flavor in the drink. See how that works there? That’s why I love to pair cheeses.

The Weird

Lion’s Pride

St Germain

Gin

1 egg white

Dash Peychaud Bitters

Lime juice

Topped with lime zest and black pepper

Oh, Adam, where did you get this one again? From Lion’s Pride in Brunswick? I have to say, I wasn’t a fan. Well, I was at first, when I smelled the drink and the lime zest and pepper beckoned me to take my first sip. And it tasted absolutely NOTHING like it smelled. I wanted the lime to be at the forefront, but mine seemed to be all Gin, with a note of potpourri. I don’t think I got through more than a couple of sips before I set it down and went right into eating the Valencay. While everyone seemed to love the cheese–it’s a favorite of mine–I’m not so sure that I would have paired this with the Lion’s Pride had I known what it would have tasted like. The texture of the Valencay is gorgeous, as Dawn said it seems like the paste is whipped, but I found it much too mild to really balance the alcohol. Perhaps something more in the line of Midnight Moon or Twig Farm Tomme would have been better.

The Burny

Whispers of the Frost

Whiskey or Bourbon

Sherry

Port

Powdered Sugar

To be served with slices of lemon and orange

I’ll put this in the ‘Burny’ category, but only because it’s pure booze with little added to the drink to cut into the alcohol. I also learned that, apparently, having Sherry and Port together will boggle the minds of some seasoned workers at RSVP. However, I did enjoy this drink and took Vrylena’s direction to squeeze the citrus and add it to the glass. The pairing for this was the easiest of the night. Port NEEDS blue cheese. Just straight out, no questions asked, it cries for a blue. The hardest part is whittling down the options. While I thought about the Rogue River Blue, I decided, in the end, to go with something a bit more like Stilton. That led me to Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont, something I find to be very much like a domestic made Stilton. The pepper from the Roqueforti Penicillium brought a nice vibrancy to the drink, while the paste mellowed out the harshness of the drink. This, in my opinion, was the best pairing of the evening.

Tom and Jerry

12 egg(s)

1 cup sugar

1 bottle brandy

Pinch of ground allspice

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

1 bottle dark rum

milk

nutmeg

I love Kate. She’s my girl, you know? But, I don’t think I’ve had a more vile drink in my life than this one. Seriously, bring me back to last years gay raver drink, The Grinch, or even the much hated Christmas Pudding we had the first year. Anything but this. One sip. One sip was all I could stand of it. If I had been more inebriated by the time we reached this drink, I would have taken out my lighter to see if it would erupt into flames because that shit was pure alcohol.

But, it’s not really Kate’s fault–this was a last minute choice when she realized that the recipe she had was the same one she made last year. So, at the 11th hour, she switched it up not really knowing what to expect. And, it’s a bit sad that I didn’t really like the drink because she spent a bit of time in the kitchen doing prep work for it.

Now, because I was expecting to pair something with a ‘Nog drink, I opted out of cheese this year–realizing last year that it’s just too much dairy and creates for a unpleasant existence–and went with chocolate. I made two barks, one with roasted Marcona almonds and the other with a sprinkling of Ghost Pepper salt. Call it a ‘Naughty and Nice’ pairing. I’m assuming that everyone liked the barks, as there was almost nothing left by the end of the night, but I can’t really speak if they went with the drink.

I also made these little bits for the evening, Deviled Eggs with Pickled Beets, from Bon Appetit. They’re a bit more work than your average deviled egg, but the end results are more than worth it. If you’re looking for a last minute dish to make for the holidays, I’d put these right at the top of your list. I would also recommend Dawn’s Bacon Wrapped Apricots with Sage. Don’t tell her, but I sneaked a few before the dish ever left the kitchen.

So, this year was a bit of a mixed bag for me when it came to the mixed drinks. But, as it has been the past few years, the true joy of it is just getting together with friends, enjoying some great food, getting a bit of a schwill on and laughing until you nearly pee.

With that… A Happy Holiday to you!

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drinking, holidays, obscure holiday cocktails, whiskey drinks

Obscure Holiday Cocktails

I have a holiday confession… I’ve never had spiked Egg Nog or a Hot Toddy or Christmas Punch or any other popular cocktail that pops up this time of year. The truth is, I don’t really drink and if I do it’s nothing more than a glass of wine every few months when the meal calls for it. My take on alcohol, in general, has always turned me to respond with a Ralph Wiggumism: “It tastes like burning!”

So, when the opportunity was presented to attend an “Obscure Holiday Cocktail” tasting with some fellow local bloggers, I was slightly scared. It was more my baby sized tolerance that frightened me the most as I was deeply concerned that I would make a complete and utter ass of myself in front of these new friends. Thankfully, things were paced enough and there was enough food to ease the way, that I walked away with dignity intact.

The evening the brain child of Dawn, from Appetite Portland, and Kate, from The Blueberry Files after a conversation they had with well known local author and bartender genius, John Myers. I volunteered to pair cheeses for the drinks, but had to resort to asking my father, a part-time bartender, for flavor profiles on many of the ingredients in the drinks. It made me laugh, and slightly anxious, that I had absolutely no point of reference for any of them outside of Southern Comfort and Port. In the end, I chose cheeses that I knew, even if they weren’t perfectly paired, would at least be enjoyed.

Our menu for the evening:

Whiskey Mac
1 1/2 oz Scotch whisky
1 oz green ginger wine

**Dawn, the bartender for the evening, informed us that the only ginger wine you can use is Stone’s Green Ginger Wine.

Cheese: Quadrella di Bufala: a buffalo milk Taleggio.

This was a hell of a way to start the evening. Made with Johnny Walker Black, this was all whiskey, or rather what I imagined it to be–heavy, sweet and toasty. The ginger wine was completely lost under the weight, only showing hints of spiciness to remind us it was in the glass. The thick paste and cream of the buffalo milk cheese, with it hints of earth and must, were enough to cut through the after burn of the whiskey. While the textures worked for me, I wasn’t completely sold on the flavors as I found something off about the mushroom/caramel mixtures. If it was available to me at the time, I think I would have gone with Ardrahn, a washed rind from Ireland.

Rye Flip
Rye Whiskey
Maple syrup
Egg
Nutmeg

Cheese: Gabietou: raw sheep and cow’s milk from Herve Mons of France.

This was the oddest of the night for me. The color was a washed out yellow that had a stronger flavor of whiskey than I had expected. It was nice, especially when the nutmeg came through but had no maple flavor and seemed like it needed, as Adam pointed out, cream to give it more heft. I could easily see this as being an alternative for some to Egg Nog. For many, the cheese, made partially of sheep’s milk, added weight to the mouthfeel and brought the drink to a higher level. Dawn pointed out that it was normally the drink that brought up the food and found it interesting to see it reversed.

Christmas Pudding
100 ml Southern Comfort
100 ml Drambuie
500 ml Guinness Stout

Cheese: Landaff: Raw cow’s milk, milked in NH and aged in VT at Jasper Hill Farms.

When I saw the ingredients for this one, I didn’t want anything to do with it. Not only was my last experience with Southern Comfort a bad one, but I can’t stand Guinness. That being said, I don’t think it was anywhere near as bad as I feared. Overall, as wisely pointed out by A. from PFM, this tasted exactly like root beer. Flat, slightly boozey, root beer. Overall, the reception for it was pretty bad, but I didn’t mind it. The cheese paired nicely, reminiscent of an english farmhouse cheddar, but there was nothing remarkable about the two together.

Glug/Gloog
Our recipe:
* 8 ounces water
* 1 cup raisins
* 3 cinnamon sticks
* 5 whole cloves
* 12 cardamom seeds
* 2 dry orange peels
Boil ingredients for 10 minutes in saucepan, then add:
* 1 gallon port wine
* One 750-ml. bottle brandy
* 16 ounces rum
* 1/2 cup sugar
Bring to boil and let simmer 1 minute, then turn off burner and ignite. Allow the mixture to burn for about 15 seconds. Serve hot.

Cheese: Rogue River Blue: raw cows milk blue wrapped in brandy soaked grape leaves



Easily the most enjoyed of the night. Warming to the belly and easy to sip, it was simply great mulled wine. And really, what drink isn’t great when you have to set it on fire? Once I saw Port and Brandy were ingredients, I knew right away that Rogue River Blue would go amazing with this and it didn’t fall short of expectations. Both buttery, slightly salty with just a hint of peppery blue it is, to me, one of the most perfect cheeses in the world.

It was truly a great night of conversation and tastings and I want to thank my hosts again for opening up my palate to a world of new flavors. Cheers!

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